ISLAMABAD - Pakistan has reaffirmed its support for efforts aimed at promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan, saying it is committed to enhancing relations with the strife-torn neighboring country.
The statement follows increased Taliban attacks and reports that Afghan peace envoys held secret talks with the insurgent group last week.
The Wall Street Journal reported a two-day meeting took place last week at Beijing’s initiative in the northwestern Chinese city of Urumqi, and the Pakistani spy agency, ISI, facilitated it.
At the weekly news conference Thursday in Islamabad, Foreign Ministry spokesman Qazi Khalilullah avoided making direct comment on the reported meeting when asked.
“Pakistan supports an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and we support all efforts in that regard,” he said, reiterating that Pakistan desires pace and stability in Afghanistan.
“Peace in Afghanistan is in the interest of the people of Afghanistan, the people of Pakistan, the people of the region and it is also important for the international peace and security,” Khalilullah said.
The Taliban has rejected as unfounded and as propaganda reports of its talks with Afghan negotiators in China.
Fugitive leaders Taliban leaders have long allegedly used Pakistani soil for refuge and directing attacks across the Afghan border with the help of Pakistan’s ISI, charges Islamabad denies.
But Pakistan's relations with Afghanistan have witnessed significant improvement since President Ashraf Ghani took office late last year.
Authorities in Islamabad now appear to be stepping up pressure on the Taliban to cease hostilities and engage in a peace and reconciliation process with Kabul.
Pakistan has for the first time this year started condemning as terrorism Taliban attacks against Afghan security forces and civilians. It has also warned the Islamist insurgency that enemies of Afghanistan will be considered enemies of Pakistan.
But the Taliban has ignored the calls for ending violence, giving credence to Islamabad's assertion that it has "some influence" with the Taliban, but does not control it.